La Cigalo is a hit and miss affair, but that could be because it’s doing too much, finds Felicity Glover
La Cigalo, which opened in Qurum in November last year, bills itself as an Italian restaurant, a French restaurant and a coffee shop all rolled into one. That’s a lot to live up to, not least that Italian and French are two of the world’s most classical and celebrated cuisines – and both nations would argue they do cafés better than the other.
The restaurant has been in my sights for a couple of months now, highlighted by the owner’s engaging social media nous – which goes a long way in terms of customer service these days.
And so it was that we found ourselves winding our way down to Qurum recently for a late Friday afternoon lunch. Unfortunately, I’m still getting my bearings around Muscat and we got lost. So our expected 30-minute journey morphed into an hour and 15 minutes. But hey, the good news was that we finally found the restaurant tucked away on a slip road near the large roundabout in Qurum.
At first, we thought it was closed as we couldn’t see any diners, but we spotted a waiter and headed in. We were greeted politely and had our choice of tables thanks to the empty dining room, which I blame on the fact that it was a hot Friday afternoon.
The dining room itself is large and has been split into two – when you enter, it is café style with large glass shelves containing a stunning choice of cakes and pastries. Turn left and you enter the dining room, decorated in pinks and golds and, I assume, themed around a French salon.
First up was a complimentary basket of bread and a tapenade of olives, basil, finely chopped carrot and tomato. I’m not sure if the bread had been toasted slightly or left out to the elements for too long, but it did have a toasty crunch.
The tapenade was slightly spicy and salty from the olives, but would have worked better on fresh bread.
We ordered our drinks – a fresh mango juice for Miss 12 and a non-alcoholic berry mojito for me, as well as sparkling water. The mango juice was delicious, but the mojito was too sweet for me.
The menu is extensive – from soups to starters to pizzas, pastas, risottos, mains and desserts – and each one carries either a French or Italian influence.
We kicked off with a rosemary focaccia, a thin pizza dough topped with fresh rosemary, garlic and olive oil and baked until it was crispy and golden. The garlic slightly overpowered the rosemary, but it was a good enough start.
For mains, Miss 12 decided to stay in her comfort zone and stick to the Italian influences, ordering her usual spaghetti bolognaise. However, she wanted penne rather than spaghetti – the waiter took it in his stride and assured us it wouldn’t be a problem.
I plumped for the Nicoise salad, which came with lettuce, quail eggs, grilled marinated fresh salmon (rather than the classic tuna), green beans, cubed potatoes, black olives, radishes and cherry tomatoes. There was little waiting time for our mains. The bolognaise looked great, stylishly served in a large white bowl and topped with a baked pastry twirl with flecks of fresh flat-leaf parsley and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar on the side. Miss 12 gave it 7.5 out of 10 – and finished it all, despite saying halfway through that it was very filling.
Unfortunately, the Nicoise salad was disappointing – the two tiny pieces of salmon were overcooked and very dry. In fact, one was burnt on the bottom – both made me think of a small Lego bricks. The majority of the salad was a mix of limp lettuce. There were a couple of green beans, while the sliced olives were clearly from a jar and lacked flavour, while the thinly sliced radishes had seen better days.
The yolks of the quail eggs were rimmed in an unappetising grey, clearly lacking the finesse of a chef who knows how to cook a boiled egg. The only highlight was the sharp tang of the apple cider vinegar dressing, but even that couldn’t lift the salad out of its limp, flavourless funk.
While the desserts were tempting, we decided to forego a sweet treat and asked for the bill. La Cigalo shows promise, but sometimes it helps to focus on just one thing and to do it exceptionally well. And I plan to head back in a few months to see if that’s the case.
Shows promise, but food was disappointing
Building number 993, Way 1013, Qurum
Tel: +968 2457 1501 / 1860
Opening hours: Daily from 7am to 1am
Price: Lunch for two (including drinks): RO18.6